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   Chapter 7 THE PARTY.

Tracy Park By Mary Jane Holmes Characters: 7503

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

The invitations had been for half-past seven, and precisely at that hour Peterkin arrived, magnificent in his swallow-tail and white shirt front, where an enormous diamond shone conspicuously. With him came the second Mrs. Peterkin, whose name was Mary Jane, but whom her husband always called May Jane. She was a frail, pale faced little woman, and had once been Grace Atherton's maid, but had married Peterkin for his money. This was her first appearance at a grand party, and in her excitement and timidity she did not hear Harold's thrice repeated words, 'Ladies go that way,' but followed her husband into the gentlemen's dressing-room, where she deposited her wraps, and then, shaking in every limb, descended to the drawing-room, where Peterkin's boisterous laugh was soon heard, as he slapped his host on the shoulder, and said:

'You see, we are here on time, though May Jane said it was too early. But I s'posed half-past seven meant half-past seven and then I wanted a little time to talk up the ropes with you. We are going to run you in, you bet!' and again his coarse laugh thrilled every nerve in Mrs. Tracy's body, and she longed for fresh arrivals to help quiet this vulgar man.

Soon they began to come by twos, and threes, and sixes, and Harold was kept busy with his 'Ladies this way, and gentlemen that.'

After Mrs. Peterkin had gone down stairs, leaving her wraps in the gentlemen's rooms, Harold, who knew they did not belong there, had carried them to the ladies' room and deposited them upon the bed, just as the girl who was to be in attendance appeared at her post, asked him sharply why he was in there rummaging the ladies' things.

'I'm not rummaging. They are Mrs. Peterkin's. She left them in the other room, and I brought them here,' Harold said, as he returned to the hall, never dreaming that this little circumstance, trivial as it seemed, would be one of the links in the chain of evidence which must for a time overshadow him so darkly.

Now, he was eager and excited, and interested in watching the people as they came up the stairs and went down again. With the quick instinct of a bright, intelligent boy, he decided who was accustomed to society and who was not, and leaning over the banister when not on duty, watched them when they entered the drawing-room and were received by Mr. and Mrs. Tracy. Unconsciously he began to imitate them, bowing when they bowed, and saying softly to himself:

'Oh, how do you do? Good evening. Happy to see you. Pleasant to-night. Walk in. Ye-as!'

This was the monosyllable with which he finished every sentence, and was the affirmation to the thought in his mind that he, too, would some day go down those stairs and into those parlors as a guest, while some other boy in the upper hall bade the ladies go this way and the gentlemen that.

It was after nine when Mr. and Mrs. St. Claire arrived, with Squire Harrington, from Collingwood. Harold had been looking for them, anxious to see the crimson satin trimmed with ermine, of which Dick had told him. Many of the guests he had mentally criticised unsparingly, but Mrs. St. Claire, he knew, was genuine, and his face beamed, when in passing him, she smiled upon him with her sweet, gracious manner, and said, pleasantly:

'Good evening, Harold. I knew you were to be here. Dick told me, and he wanted to come and assist you, but I thought he'd better stay home with Nina.'

Up to this time no one had spoken to Harold, and he had spoken to no one except to tell them where to go, but had, as far as possible, followed Mrs. Tracy's injunction to be a machine. But the machine was getting a little tired. It was hard work to stand for two hours or more, and Mrs. Tracy had impressed it upon him that he

was not to sit down. But when Mrs. St. Claire came from the dressing-room and stood before him a moment in her crimson satin and pearls, he forgot his weariness and forgot that he was not to talk, and said to her, involuntarily:

'Oh, Mrs. St. Claire, how handsome you look! Handsomer than anybody yet, and different, too, somehow.'

Edith knew the compliment was genuine, and she replied:

'Thank you, Harold,' then, laying her hand on the boy's head and parting his soft, brown hair, she said, as she noticed a look of fatigue in his eyes, 'are you not tired, standing so long? Why don't you bring a chair from one of the rooms and sit when you can?'

'She told me to stand,' Harold replied, nodding toward the parlors, from which a strain of music then issued.

The dancing had commenced, and Harold's feet and hands beat time to the lively strains of the piano and violin, until he could contain himself no longer. The dancing he must see at all hazards and know what it was like, and when the last guests came up the stairs there was no hall boy there to tell them, 'Ladies this way, gentlemen that,' for Harold was in the thickest of the crowd, standing on a chair so as to look over the heads of those in front of him and see the dancers. But, alas, for poor Harold! He was soon discovered by Mrs. Tracy, who, asking him if he did not know his place better than that, ordered him back to his post, where he was told to stay until the party was over.

Wholly unconscious of the nature of his offence, but very sorry that he had offended, Harold went up the stairs, wondering why he could not see the dancing, and how long the party would last. His head was beginning to ache with the glare and gas; his little legs were tired, and he was growing sleepy. Surely he might sit down now, particularly as Mrs. St. Claire had suggested it, and bringing himself a chair from one of the rooms he sat down in a corner of the hall and was soon in a sound sleep, from which, however, he was roused by the sound of Mr. Tracy's voice, as he came up the stairs, followed by a tall, distinguished-looking man, who wore a Spanish cloak wrapped gracefully around him, and a large, broad-brimmed hat drawn down so closely, as to hide his features from view.

As he reached the upper landing he raised his head, and Harold, who was now wide awake and standing up, caught a glimpse of a thin, pale face and a pair of keen, black eyes, which seemed for an instant to take everything in; than the head was dropped, and the two men disappeared in a room at the far end of the hall.

'I'll bet that's Mr. Arthur. How grand he is! looks just like a pirate in that cloak and hat,' was Harold's mental comment.

Before he had time for further thought, Frank Tracy came from the room and hurried down the stairs to rejoin his guests.

Five minutes later and the door at the end of the long hall which communicated with the back staircase and the rear of the house, opened, and a man whom Harold recognized as the expressman from the station appeared with a huge trunk on his shoulder and a large valise in his hand. These he deposited in the stranger's room and then went back for more, until four had been carried in. But when he came with the fifth and largest of all, a hand, white and delicate as a woman's, was thrust from the door-way with an imperative gesture, and a voice with a decided foreign accent exclaimed:

'For heaven's sake, don't bring any more boxes in here. Why, I am positively stumbling over them now. Surely there must be some place in the house for my luggage besides my private apartment.'

Then the door was shut with a bang, and Harold heard the sliding of the bolt as Arthur Tracy fastened himself in his room.

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